Today is my birthday …

… and we have no money. Usually when people say that, they mean they don’t have enough money to go out to dinner as often as they’d like. That’s what I used to mean when I said that. But Pete and I have recently moved and changed careers, and we seriously have no money.

So for the past few weeks, I’ve been telling Pete not to buy me a birthday present. And I meant it. Thankfully, he believed me. He had our girls buy me some of my favorite candy (Whoppers and Butterfingers!) with their allowance, and he got me a card. But there was more. Last night he didn’t come up to bed with me — he said he had something he needed to do. I figured he had some chemistry quizzes to grade and I was too sleepy to argue. But today when I opened his card, I discovered what he’d been doing late last night.

Two years ago, Pete got me a book called Sonnets from the Portuguese for Christmas. It’s the complete collection of love poems written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning for her husband, Robert Browning (because of her beautiful dark coloring, “My Portuguese” was his pet name for her). That book was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Until today. Late last night, he had stayed up to read through the poems in that book and choose one for me. Then he typed it into the computer, printed it out, trimmed it and slipped it into the envelope with the card. Wow.

He didn’t spend a dime on me. But the time he spent and the sincerity of the gift just blew me away.

Here’s the poem:

If thou must love me, let it be for nought

Except for love’s sake only. Do not say

‘I love her for her smile–her look–her way

Of speaking gently,–for a trick of thought

That falls in well with mine, and certes brought

A sense of pleasant ease on such a day

For these things in themselves, Beloved, may

Be changed, or change for thee,–and love, so wrought,

May be unwrought so. Neither love me for

Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry,

A creature might forget to weep, who bore

Thy comfort long, and lose thy love, thereby!

But love me for love’s sake, that evermore

Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.

For those of you who don’t feel like figuring all that out, she’s basically saying this: Don’t love me for any particular reason, because over the span of years, things change. If you love me for my hair and it falls out, then what? Or if you love me because I comfort you when you’re weeping, and then for awhile you have nothing to weep about, you might begin to think you don’t need me anymore.

Instead, she says, love me just for love itself, so it will last forever.

Happy Birthday to me!

How about you? I want to hear stories about free or really cheap gestures that were bright spots in your marriage. Share!

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One thought on “Today is my birthday …

  1. Last year I was out of town for my birthday at a really stressful conference. My wonderful husband had placed a hand-written card in my suitcase for me to find on that day. (oddly enough, I did–usually those things don’t work out that way.) In it he listed a bajillion reasons why he was proud of me. I bawled throughout the whole thing. That and, later, he and the kids called and sang “Happy Birthday” on my voice mail.

    Though technically the conference was my birthday present (and it wasn’t cheap), it was the card and call that meant the most.

    Happy Birthday to you!

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